Archive for the ‘English - general issues’ Category

Senior gov’t officers must have strong grasp of English: PM

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that top government officers must be competent in the English language. Pix by Rosdan Wahid

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that top government officers must be competent in the English language.

He said senior civil servants must have a strong mastery of English in order to be able to communicate and negotiate capably with foreign parties.

“(In this respect), senior government officers will (henceforth) undergo English competency tests,” he said after chairing the Cabinet meeting today.

Dr Mahathir’s stand on the importance of English as a lingua franca has been consistent, as it was under his leadership in 1996 that the Constitution was amended to allow the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) in national schools.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. Pix by Ahmad Irham Mohd Noor

On a separate issue, Dr Mahathir announced that the entertainment allowance for high-ranking government officials in the Jusa A category and above will be reduced by 10 per cent effective July.

“This is a cost-saving drive by the government,” he said, adding that Malaysia will be sending a team to India to study innovative ideas undertaken by the government there to enhance efficiency in the public services.

Following the first Cabinet meeting held three weeks ago, the prime minister announced a 10 per cent salary cut for Cabinet ministers as part of the government’s austerity drive.


Read more @

Language is not taught but caught

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018
Therefore, it is an injustice to expect our children in primary and secondary schools to speak and write impeccable English based on the teaching and learning of the language in school.

THE lack of communication skills in the English language among our young people is not due to their timidity or their upbringing, but due to their linguistic incompetence and lack of confidence.

To communicate in English, students have to be linguistically competent and proficient in it.

Focal knowledge and tacit knowledge are important elements in learning a language.

Focal knowledge can be taught in a formal, codified and explicit manner.

The teaching of grammar and the linguistic system of a language is taught to improve your focal knowledge and competence. It equips learners with rules and steps to follow to produce language.

Tacit knowledge is a class of knowledge that is difficult to teach and communicate to learners.

It is the unwritten, unspoken and hidden storehouse of knowledge on language learning that is based on people’s emotions, experiences, insights, intuition and information.

Tacit knowledge is a class of knowledge that is difficult to communicate.

It is the knowledge that we have without knowing we know it.

The majority of our children come from rural and remote areas.

With their limited exposure to the language outside the language classroom, these children are impoverished in their English language competence and performance.

Thought they may be linguistically competent in knowing the rules and order of the language, they may not be able to communicate due to their lack of communicative performance and opportunities.

Therefore, it is an injustice to expect our children in primary and secondary schools to speak and write impeccable English based on the teaching and learning of the language in school.

Children who acquire the language come from English-speaking homes or from an English- speaking background.

It is impossible to master any language without practice and usage outside the classroom.

During the Malaysian University English Test speaking test, examiners find pre-university candidates grappling with the English language

Therefore, it is not surprising that most graduates lack soft and communication skills in English during their job interviews

Learning the language needs active participation, interaction and exposure to the language.

The students should be given an environment where they can practise the language.

Short-term measures and knee-jerk reactions will not be able to fill this void

Long-term measures require the Education Ministry to consult parents, teachers, Parent Action Group for Education and education groups to review and revise their policies on English teaching and learning.

We need English language immersion programmes that equip learners with focal and tacit knowledge.


Read more @

Producing an internationally recognized English qualification

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (second from left) witnessing Cambridge English Language Assessment Research and International Development head Dr Hanan Khalifa (right) delivering the certificate of recognition to Malaysian Examinations Council chairman Professor Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak. With them is Education director-general Datuk Dr Amin Senin.

THE Malaysian University English Test (MUET) is a step closer to becoming an internationally-accepted English qualification for university entry, following the recognition of being aligned with the Common European Framework Reference (CEFR) by the Cambridge English Language Assessment (CELA), a department of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said with the alignment with CEFR, the Malaysian Examinations Council (MEC) could push MUET into the international market as a product in the likes of TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System).

“MUET is the brainchild of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak when he was education minister, and it has been implemented for the past 20 years, used for university admissions in Malaysia,” said Mahdzir.

With this new development, he said, several countries, such as Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, had shown interest in using MUET for their students.

MEC, in 2014, had collaborated with CELA to have MUET benchmarked against the European framework to determine if the test matched the standards outlined in CEFR.

Upon completing the study, CELA was engaged to help and advise the MUET Test Syllabus and Specification Aligning Committee to ensure that the English test matched the European framework and would be accepted internationally.

CELA Research and International Development head Dr Hanan Khalifa said there were five stages an examination needed to go through to align it with CEFR.

“We’ve already done the first and second stage for MUET last year, whereby the first was familiarisation of CEFR and the second was where we looked into how reading, listening, speaking and writing are defined in the test,” she said.

“We are working on standardisation, as well as training and benchmarking by the middle of the year. And then, standard setting and validation by year-end.”

On the challenges for MUET to gain recognition as a global qualification like IELTS and TOEFL, she said: “There really isn’t a process and there is no one to give you a stamp.

“For example, IELTS have been around since 1979. But, it gained recognition around the world year-on-year. So, it takes time before an examination is recognised internationally.”

On how best Malaysia could leverage interest from other countries to implement MUET as an entry test, she said: “First, you need to show that the test is of excellent quality. MEC is working on that and we are helping them out.

“And, I think you need to run a campaign with the objective of creating awareness of what MUET is and the process that it has gone through for validation and alignment.

“MUET, or any exam that is considered high stakes, would need to undergo continuous improvements. So, we cannot say we have revised it and stop there. It has to continuously improve.

“But, that does not mean changing it every year. Usually, the revision cycle is eight to 10 years. You need to make sure that year-on-year, the results are using criterion references, are fair, valid and reliable. That’s what MEC needs to show year-on-year for MUET.”

Geraldine Anne Nathan with her plaque and certificate for Best student MUET 2017.

Mahdzir and Hanan had earleir attended the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) best schools and best students award ceremony in Putrajaya.

At the event, MEC chairman Professor Datuk Seri Dr Mohamed Mustafa Ishak received the MUET recognition certificate from Hanan and was witnessed by Mahdzir.

Three STPM students were recognised as best performers in MUET last year.

Among them was Geraldine Anne Nathan, a science stream student who did her Form 6 at Kolej Tingkatan Enam Sri Istana in Klang, Selangor. She scored Band 6 in the MUET 2017 July session.

Making the effort to speak in English with friends and family, going through exam revision books and sample essays, and doing exercises were among her key preparations for MUET, she said.

“For me, the most challenging part of MUET is Section A of writing, where a graph is given to be analysed and elaborated on. When we did this section in class, I always had the tendency to give my own opinion in my own words rather than use the facts presented in the graph. So, I had a little trouble with that bit. Before the exam, I went through my MUET books just for that section alone,” she shared.

The other two recipients are top scorers Thillak Sekaran of Kolej Matrikulasi Melaka in Masjid Tanah, Melaka, for the MUET 2017 March session and Wayne Ho Xiun Liang of SMK Datuk Patinggi Haji Abdul Gapor in Kuching, Sarawak, for the MUET 2017 November session. Thillak and Ho were not able to attend the ceremony.


Read more @

Wanted – English coaches to bring out the best in our students.

Monday, February 26th, 2018

PETALING JAYA: A nationwide language coaching programme is being mooted to boost students’ command of English.

The Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) is hoping to assemble a “dynamic team” of coaches to improve the proficiency of the country’s 300,000 primary and secondary school students.

The group’s chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahman said it wants a robust English coaching programme to guide and inspire targeted students to become confident listeners, speakers, readers and writers of English.

So, all coaches must be a “proficient user” based on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) benchmark.

As a first step, an online survey to gauge the public’s interest in participating was recently launched.

The survey, she said, would show if qualified people were willing to coach small groups of students so that every child is given the opportunity to be proficient in the language and pursue his full potential.

“We understand teachers need help with the weakest of students,” she told Sunday Star. “So, we’re gauging to see if the public is willing to help for a nominal fee under a semi-voluntary arrangement.”

She said if the response was promising, a proposal would be presented to the Education Ministry.

“If we can show that the exercise is sustainable, we hope the ministry can create a budget for it,” she said, adding that PAGE would capitalise on the expertise of remedial models used in other countries.

The plan, she said, was to run the programme in a few pilot schools to test its feasibility.

To participate, log on to

Noor Azimah said the public has been concerned and critical of the low level of English language taught in schools.

“Over 50% of fresh graduates are unemployed because of their poor command of the language and their weak communication skills,” she said.
Read more @

Building capacity to increase English proficiency

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018
The roundtable in session. In the front row (from left) are Supyan Hussin, Ganakumaran Subramaniam, Zuraidah Mohd Don, Siti Bahijah Bakhtiar and Nor Faridah Abd Manaf.

There has been a lot of concern for a long while now on whether Malaysian graduates and school-leavers have the English language proficiency levels that will enable them to compete in a globalised world where trade and commerce are mostly carried out in English and academic research findings are largely authored in the language.

Two years ago, the Ministry of Education (MOE) launched the Roadmap for English Language Education in Malaysia spanning 2015 to 2025 to align the standard of English taught in schools and institutions of higher learning with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) — an international standard that focuses on producing learners who can communicate and interact in any language, in this instance, English.

The roadmap takes a cohesive approach where the English language curriculum, teaching and learning process and materials, and teacher training are integrated. With an emphasis on the ability to communicate, CEFR spells out the learning outcomes/skills (e.g. understand, read, write, communicate) students should attain at every stage of learning and puts the student, teacher and parent on the same page where expectations and results are concerned.

While the focus on the alignment with CEFR standards has been very much school-based, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, in his 2018 mandate, proposed that the Malaysia English Assessment (MEA) be CEFR-aligned and integrated into the communication component of the iCGPA in public universities.

This move underlines the fact that where English language education is concerned, there is a themed continuum from preschool to tertiary studies.

Textbooks form one of the core components of an education curriculum.

To accelerate efforts to elevate the standard of English in schools, MOE announced the introduction of foreign textbooks in English language classes at public schools starting this year as part of its initiative to align the English language curriculum with CEFR standards. This move involves those from preschool, Years One and Two pupils, and Forms One and Two students .

While some — politicians, teachers and parents — opposed the move due to a multitude of reasons, there are also those who strongly feel that this initiative will enhance English language proficiency.

Issues such as the content not being culturally suitable for students in rural areas especially and lack of consultation with stakeholders like teachers and parents on the use of such textbooks were raised. Some also pointed out that the abrupt decision by the ministry may not augur well.

Superminds, the CEFR-aligned textbook used by preschoolers, Years One and Two pupils, is published by Cambridge University Press, while Form One and Two students use Pulse 2 published by Macmillan Publishers.

Matter of Contention:

International Islamic University Malaysia’s (IIUM) Department of English Language and Literature organised a recent roundtable discussion to provide a platform for academicians to extrapolate issues from angles as diverse as those from the grass roots, parents, teachers and universities to policy-makers but with an eye on building a constructive effort to address the concerns of all Malaysians effectively.

Professor at Sustainability of Language Science

Professor Supyan Hussin of the Sustainability of Language Sciences Research Centre in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia kicked off the session by sharing the findings of a survey he conducted in October last year via social media which received 727 responses from the public to gauge whether they agree with the move to import textbooks from the United Kingdom to teach English.

Some 64.5 per cent did not agree with the idea of importing foreign books to be used in schools while 25.2 per cent agreed with the move and the rest were not sure.

From the survey results, concerns revolved around the cost (which many believe is too expensive), cultural elements (how foreign elements will affect the way students think and act), credibility of local writers (the country hascredible writers to write textbooks), and whether imported books are compatible with the curriculum.

“Some say it’s not so much the textbooks but whether teachers are able to use them to teach,” said Supyan, adding that a curriculum is designed with an education philosophy in mind and, in the case of Malaysia, materials must be in line with the National Education Philosophy.

“Based on the National Education Philosophy, we should conduct needs analysis and address the requirements of the Z and Alpha generations. The books need to fulfil the learning objectives for specific lessons. Delivery is tested and student assessments are conducted to see whether the outcomes match the objectives. Then we decide whether to adopt or adapt. That’s how we select materials for teaching and learning,” he added.

Malaysian English Language Teaching Association president Professor Ganakumaran Subramaniam, who is also the Asia Teaching English as a Foreign Language vice-president and School of Education head at the University of Nottingham Malaysia, said that textbooks alone cannot improve waning standards of English in schools.

Other elements that come into play include teacher competence; the learning environment in terms of context and opportunities to use the language; teaching strategies comprising methodologies, strategies and activities; a carefully thought-out developmental syllabus; student motivation; and learning-related matters such as personality, readiness, learning styles and strategies.

Like Supyan, Ganakumaran said textbook suitability should be measured by its compliance with the National Education Philosophy and aligned with the English curriculum goals; English Language Teaching pedagogical consideration; and technical and publication consideration, among others.


Read more @

Idris Jusoh: English proficiency of local graduates on the rise.

Monday, February 5th, 2018

JOHOR BARU: English language proficiency among Malaysian graduates from local universities has improved in recent years, says Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.

The Higher Education Minister said most graduates had achieved better grades on English assessment tests set by the ministry.

He added that findings from the Malaysian English Assessment showed that local university graduates now have more confidence to converse in the language.

“Feedback from industries also shows that the standard of English among our local graduates is getting better,” Idris told reporters during the university and Industry dialogue at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia here Monday (Feb 5).

Read more @

Building on a benchmark

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

The English Language Roadmap 2015-2025 uses the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). This year, imported CEFR-aligned English textbooks are being used in schools. And, plans are underway to align the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) with the framework. StarEducate finds out more about the CEFR, and how it can improve our English proficiency.

FOCUSED on teaching, assessment, and assessment-reporting, our Primary School Standard Curriculum (KSSR), and Standard Curriculum for Secondary Schools (KSSM), are based on expected outcomes that indicate progress and success, says Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) president Prof Dr S. Ganakumaran.

Essentially, both our curriculum, and the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), are based on learner achievement standards, he explains.

Two months ago, the Malaysia Examination Council announced that efforts were underway to align the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) with the CEFR so that it can be globally marketed especially to international students planning to further their studies in Malaysia.

“The biggest difference between the CEFR and our curriculum is that the KSSR standards are internally set based on the needs of learning a second language in Malaysia, and our success criteria is based on national goals, and expectations.

“On the other hand, the CEFR standards are determined externally based on language-learning research in Europe. These standards allow us to structure what we teach, and assess, to benchmark the progress of our students internationally,” Prof Ganakumaran says.

Launched in 2001, the CEFR, adds Universiti Malaya’s (UM) Faculty of Education senior lecturer Dr Zuwati Hasim, is neither a curriculum, nor a syllabus.

“Why do we need CEFR as a benchmark? What will happen to MUET – the English language competency examination taken by local students as a requirement to enter local public and private universities? If students are in Band 6 of MUET, which is equivalent to C2 of the CEFR, will they be exempted from taking the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or any other internationally-developed English language test, when they enrol in universities abroad?” she asks.

Calling for a transparent evaluation of the CEFR’s implementation, she says the framework can be used as a form of reference for many different languages – not just English, but it must be an adaption, not an adoption.

Stressing that the framework is a mere guide, she says it can be adapted here if it’s aligned towards the communicative needs of our pupils.

“In Malaysia, English is a second language, not a foreign language. We shouldn’t be aligning our syllabus to the framework by compromising on our learners’ needs,” she feels, adding that the curriculum we’ve had through the years, were impressive and well-developed. Now, it’s about improving what we have.

The KSSR, and KSSM, are in line with the national education principles, and aimed at strengthening unity in a multi-cultural society, she adds.

KSSR was implemented in 2011, replacing the Primary School Integrated Curriculum (KBSR), which was introduced in 1983. The KSSM, which replaced the Integrated Secondary School Curriculum (KBSM), and a revised KSSR, kicked-off last year.

“Imported textbooks are being introduced even before we’ve analysed the effectiveness of the KSSR and KSSM textbooks. Will the CEFR lead to a revamp of the current co-curriculum?” she asks.

It’s important for teachers to be assessed based on the CEFR to show the quality of their proficiency according to an international standard, says Prof Ganakumaran. But, language proficiency – though advantageous, doesn’t necessarily translate to good teaching.

One of the key aims of the CEFR is to address a society that speaks several languages, and is sensitive to the different cultures around them, Dr Surinderpal Kaur, the deputy dean of postgraduate studies at the UM Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, points out. “Like Europe, Malaysia isn’t a monogamous culture. But the CEFR isn’t prescriptive – it tells you to modify the benchmark to suit your cultural context, not how to do it.”

European countries use the CEFR for many different languages as a benchmark for communication competency. This international benchmarking is very important because it allows for labour mobility. If correctly interpreted and implemented, the CEFR brings consistency. But it boils down to the training of educators, the materials used, assessment processes, and curriculum developed.

“We’ve to continuously tweak our curriculum which is still very traditional. We need peer-learning, emersion in digital technology, and critical thinkers who can apply their knowledge to solve problems.

“Aligning everything to the CEFR won’t be of much use if we don’t open up our curriculum. You can’t have your own benchmark for the SPM, then expect students to sit for the CEFR-aligned MUET at varsity. The benchmark must be consistent from primary level.”

Most European countries piloted their CEFR-aligned teacher-training, materials and assessments, when they started. This is necessary to iron out the kinks, she says.

“Once we’ve done that for English, the template we’ve created can be used for other languages like Bahasa Malaysia.”

Teachers, she adds, are crucial because if they don’t understand the CEFR, and the aims behind it, we won’t get far. She suggests:

> Improving teacher-proficiency in line with the CEFR;

> Ensuring that teacher-trainers know the CEFR well, can communicate it effectively, and are able to help teachers make sense of the teaching materials;

> Introducing a platform for teachers to share their best practices;

> Organising workshops for trainers and teachers; and

> Having townhalls to reach out to the community.

Dr Surinderpal calls for parents, teachers, teacher-trainers, and students, to be treated as equal stakeholders in the learning of English.

“Use lay terms. Reach out to the public. They must know what the Education Ministry is doing, and how it’s being done. Show the step-by-step progression, and address their concerns along the way.”

Dr Zuwati, who’s also a teacher-trainer, believes in empowering teachers.

Currently, only selected teachers are trained in the CEFR-aligned syllabus and textbooks. And, they’re expected to train their colleagues. The message, she says, can get lost in translation. She worries about the impact this would have on the implementation of the CEFR.

To fully benefit from the CEFR, you have to implement it properly, and not rush into superficial solutions, says Cambridge Assessment English (policy, projects and partnerships) director Dr Hanan Khalifa.

Part of the University of Cambridge, the not-for-profit organisation is dedicated to helping people learn English. It has been involved in the development of the CEFR for over 30 years.

“It’s tempting to take short cuts, but these don’t give you the improvements which a carefully implemented programme can give you.

“So it’s great that the Education Ministry is taking so much care in using data to align the curriculum, assessment, and learning materials, to the CEFR. This will ensure that they really deliver the skills which pupils need,” says Dr Hanan.

Read more @

Charting the journey forward

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

The English Language Roadmap 2015-2025 is a “really inspiring” model which other countries should study, says Cambridge Assessment English (policy, projects and partnerships) director Dr Hanan Khalifa.

It’s an ambitious vision for the country’s future, giving every pupil a high level in both English and the national language.

“It’s easy for a government to set ambitious targets, but what’s special about the roadmap is that it includes a detailed, realistic plan for achieving these targets. It also covers the whole education system from primary and secondary to university, which is visionary,” she says.

Echoing her sentiments, Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) president Prof Dr S. Ganakumaran describes it as a positive step forward, saying goals, and targeted outcomes, are clearly stipulated in the strategic plan.

“But one of our education system’s biggest flaw is that we’re always doing things in a hurry, and expecting immediate results.

“Often, we launch a programme when we are ill prepared. We start a programme even before training the teachers, preparing the materials, and developing the assessment.

“We must reflect on our failed and abandoned projects, to learn how to do things better so that our education will have a progressive, and sustainable future,” he thinks.

Dr Surinderpal Kaur, the deputy dean of postgraduate studies at the Universiti Malaya Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, says the roadmap is good as it addresses what’s wrong with our system, and clearly sets the way forward.

“But we launched it before having all the infrastructure in place. So now we have to make some tweaks and be open to constructive criticism. Modifications are needed but it shouldn’t be anything major. No flip-flops or our education system won’t have sustainability and continuity.”

In August 2016, the Education Ministry launched the roadmap to continue enhancing English proficiency among teachers and students.

Focused on the country’s 40,000 English teachers, the roadmap is part of the implementation of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 to reform English Language education in the country.

In preparation for the roadmap’s implementation, master trainers and observers were trained on the CEFR by Cambridge English in 2016.

The roadmap uses the CEFR and was produced by the English Language Standards and Quality Council. The council is made up of a panel of experts and the director of Cambridge English’s English Language Teaching Centre.

A detailed analysis of English language learning in Malaysia, have been produced for the ministry, says Dr Hanan.

Read more @

Building ties through language

Sunday, January 28th, 2018
KZIUM is led by two co-directors, Prof Azarae (right) and Chen.

KZIUM is led by two co-directors, Prof Azarae (right) and Chen.

UNDERSTANDING is one of the key ingredients to building a cordial relationship between people and nations.

The Kong Zi Institute Universiti Malaya (KZIUM) is part of the global Confucius Institute (CI) network established by Hanban (Confucius Institute Headquarters) and Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU).

Set up on Nov 1, 2009, in Universiti Malaya as a government-to-government programme between Malaysia and China, the institute focuses on enhancing the understanding of the Chinese language.

KZIUM Malaysia director Prof Datuk Dr Azarae Idris, who has been managing the institute since 2010, says KZIUM is the fruit of “two governments and two nations working together”.

KZIUM offers Mandarin courses including Comprehensive Mandarin (Levels 1-6), Chinese Character Course, Essential Mandarin for Business (Intermediate, Advanced) and Essential Mandarin for Travelling in China.

Students who have completed their Mandarin courses have the option to take the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK) test – the international standardised Chinese proficiency test that consists of six levels – to measure their ability to communicate in Chinese during daily life.

The YCT (Youth Chinese Test) is available for primary and secondary school students who are non-native Chinese speakers.

“The programmes here are tailored for people who want to take up Mandarin as a second language.

“About 95% of our students are Malay while the rest include other locals and international students,” he says.

Last year, KZIUM taught over 4,000 students from UM as well as other public and private universities, government agencies and the public.

He adds that knowing Mandarin will open job opportunities in Chinese companies based locally as well as in China.

“By knowing the Chinese language, we will also learn about each other’s culture,” says Prof Azarae who has turned 60 and retired this month. Assoc Prof Dr Noor Zalina Mahmood from UM’s Institute of Biological Sciences has been appointed as his successor.

KZIUM Chinese director Chen Zhong also believes that language is the vehicle for culture.

Chen, an English graduate with a Masters in Lexicography – the art of compiling, writing and editing dictionaries – has been in Malaysia since 2013.

KZIUM, he says, is a bridge between nations.

“We are a platform for our Mandarin teachers from China to reach out to the local teachers to help them improve teaching skills through workshops and conferences that KZIUM organises,” he says.

The institute also brings together organisations from China and Malaysia that are related to education and culture, adds Chen.

He says one of the misconception people have towards the Chinese language is they think they can learn it like how they learn Mathematics.

“This is not true. Mandarin has its own rules of learning, it takes time to learn the components – reading, writing, listening.

“One cannot speak a foreign language fluently in just three or four months,” he says, adding that many people often want to only learn the speaking component of the language.

“If you want to really learn Mandarin, you have to know the Chinese characters because they carry the meaning of the language.

“There are no shortcuts or easy way to learn a foreign language,” he says.

Practice makes perfect, this is the only way.

Read more @

English is language of first priority, so let’s drop any prejudice against it

Sunday, January 28th, 2018
(File pix)

WE are learning English in school, so we join one billion people who are engaged in the same pursuit.

However, as we try to learn the rules of grammar, and try to avoid mistakes committed by students of English, we may wonder why we are learning English in the first place.

So, why is English important?

After Mandarin, English is spoken by more people than any other language, and it is also the native language of more than 350 million people.

More people speak English than those who speak Arabic and French combined.

Moreover, English is the international language of diplomacy, business, science, technology, banking, computing and medi-cine. English has between 500,000 and 1,000,000 words, but most English speakers do fairly well with a vocabulary of 20,000 words.

English can be fun, too. For example, music stars such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Michael Jackson encouraged fans to sing along, thereby encouraging people to speak English.

Others embrace English to enjoy the writings of Stephen King, George Orwell and J.K. Rowling. Yet others take to English just to converse with travellers from other countries. English also comes in handy when we travel abroad.

Here are tips on how to be better in English:

FIRST, we need to drop any prejudice against the English language. It is the language of international business, the language of first priority. Any lingering paranoia against English warrants removal;

SECOND, we must make a decision to learn the language despite difficulties and setbacks. It means thinking in the language and using it as often as possible. Practice makes perfect. Those poor in English must make a decision to better themselves in the language;

THIRD, we need to encourage a multilingual Malaysia.

We do not need to teach all the languages in school, but we should provide the opportunity for people to learn languages inexpensively.

If we all learnt each other’s language, it would help us to understand each other better and may bring us closer as a nation. Malaysians do not need any convincing on this points, as many are multilingual.


Read more @